Velma is a take-charge woman, ever ready to adopt a new radical cause and careless of whom she offends. Committed to a number of civil rights projects, she has only recently become aware of environmental issues and seen an interrelatedness where previously she discerned none. She is convinced that Claybourne’s largest employer, Transchemical, drives workers to early deaths and that its pollution is part of a global conspiracy of the privileged to enrich themselves through exploitation of the wretched of the earth, largely people of color. Just before her attempted suicide, she has been questioned about the destruction of Transchemical’s computer records. Her disturbed state of mind makes her sketchy thoughts, including flashbacks to the recent past as well as to her childhood, often difficult to grasp, while her friends’ recollections of her range from impatient and envious to unqualifiedly admiring. In perhaps Minnie Ransom’s most difficult case, Velma is fighting for her life.
Minnie Ransom and Old Wife ought not to be considered separately but rather as a team. This old woman and her spirit mentor resemble a married couple whose impatience with each other cloaks deep affection. Although Minnie, a consummate herbalist, combines a variety of techniques in her healing, she relies mostly on commonsensical counseling combined with generous doses of love. Nothing about the low-key performance in the pleasant room suggests the bizarre. That these women, who probably represent body and soul—though which is which is often...
(The entire section is 629 words.)